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Citizens group aims to bring public control over local taxes, budget

The Tax Integrity and Fairness Alliance (TIFa) will hold a press conference on Tuesday, February 12, at 6:30 pm, immediately before a 7:00 pm Town Meeting on the issue of TIF districts. Location is the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago. TIFa is an open group dedicated to exposing and changing TIFs to help return public control to taxes and the budget.

TIFs were originally created to keep tax money within a “blighted” district and use it to redevelop that area. But since the introduction of TIF districts in Chicago in 1986, about half of the $4.5 billion extracted from general tax funds has gone to private development projects, many of them far from blighted communities. Major corporations receiving TIF funds include Hyatt, Target, Coca Cola, and United Airlines. That comes at the expense of Chicago Public Schools, libraries, parks, and other public assets.

In 2011 Chicago’s TIF program extracted $454 million in property taxes from 163 TIF districts. Thirty percent of the city is in a TIF district.

“Last year, TIFs took about $250 million from CPS,” says Steve Serikaku, retired CPS teacher and activist. “That could have covered the costs of the new contract several times over. It could pay for more teachers, social workers, clinicians, and others who directly help children.”

The Town Meeting will feature award-winning political reporter Ben Joravsky and other speakers who will shed light on the opaque, clout-driven TIF program. Workshops will help attendees learn how to regain control over their tax money.

“It’s time for Chicagoans to get smart and take action,” says Tom Tresser, co-founder of CivicLab, which is conducting an in-depth investigation of TIFs. Tresser is also a featured speaker at the meeting, and will present detailed findings of the impacts of the 12 TIFs in the 27th Ward.

The third presenter is Professor Richard Dye of the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Professor Dye has done extensive research and writing on local government finance programs, including TIFs.

The founding organizations of TIFa include Chicago Gray Panthers, Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign, CivicLab, and Progressive Democrats of America-Illinois. The TIF Town Hall has also been endorsed by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, the Lawndale Alliance, and the Pilsen Alliance.

Biographies of Town Hall Presenters

Dr. Richard Dye is a Professor at University of Illinois, Chicago Institute of Government and Public Affairs, and co-author of “TIF districts hinder growth: Study finds that cities without TIFs grow faster.” His research and public service activities focus on state and local government finance as it relates to economic development. Professor Dye retired from Lake Forest College in 2007 after 24 years in the school’s Department of Economics. His administrative experience includes four years as chair of the Department of Economics and Business at Lake Forest College and a year as president of the Illinois Economic Association. Prior to going to Lake Forest College, he taught at Bowdoin College and was a research economist at the Social Security Administration under a Brookings Institution Economic Policy Fellowship.

Ben Joravsky is an award-winning journalist for the Chicago Reader and author of five books, including “Hoop Dreams.” Since 2003 he has focused on citywide matters such as Tax Increment Financing and the city’s proposal to bring the Olympics to Chicago. Over the last few years, Joravsky and fellow journalist Mick Dumke have collaborated on investigations exposing issues from the parking meter sale to costly and unfairly enforced marijuana laws.

Tom Tresser is a consultant, producer, educator, and trainer who works with individuals, companies, and communities to help them solve problems, create economic value, and trigger civic engagement. He was a co-founder of Protect Our Parks, a neighborhood effort to stop the privatization of public space in Chicago, and a lead organizer of No Games Chicago, a grassroots effort that opposed Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid. He has led workshops on for arts service organizations in six states, and has taught classes on art, creativity, and civic engagement for Loyola University, School of the Art Institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and DePaul University. Tom is currently working on establishing The CivicLab, a storefront space where activists can collaborate, educate, and build tools for civic engagement.
http://www.civiclab.us, http://www.tresser.com

Valerie F. Leonard (moderator) works with community-based organizations to improve their internal board and management systems to help them effect positive changes in the lives of their clients and communities.. Her diverse client base includes After School Matters, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Habilitative Systems, Inc., and the University of Illinois-Great Cities Institute. Leonard is also convener of the Lawndale Alliance. She was born, raised, and still resides in North Lawndale, a changing community on Chicago’s West Side.
http://www.valeriefleonard.com, http://lawndalealliance.blogspot.com

Tax Integrity & Fairness Alliance
Phone = 773-882-7272
http://www.tifalliance.weebly.com TIFa_block

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town with Mike Sanders, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And if you have a cause to champion, please let us know as we work to become the grassroots support network for Chicago Activists and community organizers.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com

Revolution and Beer…of the week, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, and dreams of Bavaria

imageseDoesn’t everyone go to the English garden to see naked people? The English garden, in the heart of busy Munich, the Bavaria capital in southern Germany, is an absolute destination, regardless of the time of year, and regardless whether there are actually naked people about. I was told, the first time I went there that I had to go to the English garden, dubbed “Naked Garden” by the travel agent, who had never been there.

It was a perfect early autumn day, and warm, that first of what would become a half dozen trips to Munich, and nearly a dozen to Bavaria. Hotels are little more than a place to collapse at the end of the day when I travel. dumping my things on the bed in my quaint and comfortable room on Amalienstrasse, across from a little corner wine shop, I set off in reasonable haste to the English Garden.

The English garden is a bit of a misnomer. It is more a park, a gathering place of broad green fields, a study in contrasts and visions unlike anywhere else in the world. This particular day the trees still had not begun to change, their full, rich, deep green bordering the vast openness, broken only by a small creek and a small banks of low, young trees. Crowning the park, upon a small rise, the stately Monopteros rotunda. Beyond the treetops teased the skyline of Munich, a mix of modern and old world architecture. The rush and racket of busy traffic along Ludwigstrasse was hardly a murmur here.

That first breath of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier from Bamberg, just north of Munich, quickly took me back to that Sunny afternoon. Schlenkerla smokebeer exudes a smoky pork essence lifting from the glass and the half inch cream-tinged head. This is the way hops were dried centuries ago, over an open flame, where they would inevitably pick up the smokiness of the fire, and perhaps anything coooking over the fire as well. This beer takes its name from that timeless process, dubbed smokehouse beer, as well as the Urbock tradition of a high alcohol content(6.6%ABV) and plenty of hops, which before refrigeration allowed shipping the beer across long distances.

I was a very poor artist, that first trip to Munich, a week off my second trip to Bosnia and the besieged city of Sarajevo. I’d arrived by train, two days on the overnight from Budapest to Prague, and the all day stunning trip through the Bohemian forest to Munich. The famous Brauhoaus was a distant desire, but I taunted a growling belly by standing in the window and inhaling the smell of roasting pork loin turning and dripping over tickling orange flames in the window.

The initial impression of this Urbock, or original Bock was reaffirmed interestingly in thetaste of smoky sweet pork nice little bitterness at the end. It was hardly overwhelming, and instead was more a character than a quality. Brian and I discovered a suprisingly complex and pleasant depth of taste to the richly colored deep umber brew. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier was not at all heavy, and offered a slight tanginess that gave the overall experience a nice, balance overall. At the end, the lacing in these intricate and tattered rings in the tall mug was an art in its own right.

Still I could hardly shake the memory of Munich, and how I would have loved to able to afford one of those juicy pork loins at the Brauhaus. Instead, with the sun setting, I slipped into a nearby market for some cheese, deli meat, bread and a couple of beers. Marienplatz was quickly empying of tourists, the shops shuttered and closing. The fading light played golden upon the gothic revival textures of the Rathaus.

There was music playing in the dark halls and passageways beneath Feldernhalle, overlooking Odeonsplatz. The Theatinerkirche caught the last light of the day, deepening the shadows in the 19th Century Feldernhalle, or Field Marshall’s hall. A Roma girl played a lonely accordion to no one, her classical selections echoing away in the narrow passage. I settled on a bench, opened a beer and laid out the food. She smiled sweetly and played a tune to me alone. Too bashful to applaud when she finished, I motioned to the food. She took a piece of cheese, and with a quiet “Danke,” turned and was gone.

I had not thought about that moment until tasting this beer. That is the magic of a good beer like Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, described one of the 50 best beers in the world. It is definitely in my top 10. But a great beer can transport you back to those perfect moments, a place and a point in time. But if you’ve never been to Munich, Schlenkerla’s Urbock Rauchbier can take you there, just enough.incidentally, the wife and I never did the Brauhaus, preferring in stead markets and little out of the way discoveries for food and drink.

Find out more about this beer: http://www.schlenkerla.de/rauchbier/beschreibunge.html

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town with Mike Sanders, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And if you have a cause to champion, please let us know as we work to become the grassroots support network for Chicago Activists and community organizers.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com

Revolution and Beer…of the week: Hirter Morchl and harmony

IMG_0371Hirt. I’ve been through the town, back some years ago. Tucked in that storybook region of south-central Austria, within site of the alps. The town is on the Ljubljana-Klagenfurt-Vienna line. I’d just come out of my first trip to the former Yugoslavia, still mired in conflict. Exhausted but tortured by all I’d experienced and witnessed, my gaze was fixed out the window on that overnight train to Vienna.

The hills and mountains were lost to darkness and the reflection of my face in the window of the small, empty compartment. There were but a scattering of lights in the distance. Hirt was one of those ocassional places. I can’t recall if the train stopped there or not. What I do recall was the soft, almost sweet scent of the chilly autumn air through the window, juxtaposing with the struggling floor heater near my sore and tired feet. My shoulders still ached from the backpack perched on the seat opposite. I luxuriated in a cleansing breath and felt those last days and weeks wash from my body and soul. Last night, as I poured a glass of Hirter Morchl, an elegant but not overbearing dark Austrian Lager, the scent of the beer reawakened that moment on the train.

I’d barely chilled this beer. I actually prefer darker, fuller beers at not much below a comfortable room temperature. Too cool and I feel the aroma of the beer is subdued, and with it the taste. The craft and artistry of these beers is their character. I want that. I want to explore that. I also want a nice controlled and foamy head in a good beer. Silly as it sounds, I want my nose in that soft head, where I can fully and deeply breathe the beer in. Hirter Morchl did not disappoint. So that’s where I began with Hirter Morchl, that caramel-tinged head. It didn’t remain for too long. It shouldn’t, instead withdrawing into the body, or remaining upon the sides of the chaliced glass in tatters. Beer aficionados dub this lacing.

There is a harmony to European trains at night. The rhythmic clunk-a-clunk, the slow cradling, lolling of the train coaxes sleep or deep thought. As the Berlin wall was coming down and Europe in the course of a fundamental revolution, I travelled Europe by train almost exclusively, much of it in Eastern and Southern Europe. The uncounted and untold hours and days I spent writing, daydreaming, lamenting and exploring for almost two years were a university all to their own. A world happens on European trains; politics, romance and more. Unlike trains in America, European trains are community. I always liked to think that the European Union was inevitable, if for no other reason than for the ultimate community drawn East to West by trains.

At first taste, I found its gently fruity sweetness giving way to the a nutty, chocolate and dark malt depth, saved at the end bit a hint of hops, just to remind me this was beer and not silk. This is a pleasant, hardly overwhelming beer reminding us that, while not gone, the darkest and coldest days of winter are behind us, and that spring awaits. We’ve bested winter once again.

The train arrived in Vienna the next morning after a rain. The streets were soaked and glistening. The long tall avenues, imbued with a timeless history, fully open to the fiction of one’s fantasies were rendered in hues of blue and gray. A soft, cold drizzle still remained. I shivered at a chill. Despite a night without sleep, I was fully refreshed, a consequence of the train, alpine air the luxury of unfettered thought: Harmony. From the first taste of Hirter Morchl I found that same harmony.

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck with Brian Murray and the whole Our Town gang with Mike Sanders every Sunday 8-9am on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT, streming worldwide during the Revolution and Beer segment, and find out more about all of the great craft Beers we feature by googling Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. Like us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer, or subscribe for free to 900poundgorilla.wordpress.com.

Revolution and Beer…of the week: St Bernardus Abt 12, and the Art of the journey

What’s that old, saying, “when you get to a fork in the road, take it?” That’s how I’ve always approached the open road and, to a larger degree, life. What does that have to do with beer, particularly a fine Belgian Ale brewed in a Flanders Abbey? You’ll just just have to wait and see.

A few years back I was on a business trip to Germany, visiting the little town of Raunheim on the Main River just south of Frankfurt. There is nothing especially interesting about Raunheim. It is a pleasant enough town that can be driven through in about 5 minutes, even if you hit all the lights on the main strasse.
So, arriving early one sunday I grabbed a rental and took off, sort of headed southwest towards Bastogne Belgium, but not headed directly there. I’ve always wanted to visit Bastogne, site of the Battle of the Bulge during the Second World War, but it was less about getting there as it was about the journey. I thrilled at reaching that historic city, but was just as swept up in what I would discover along the way.

Half way to Weisbaden, about 45 minutes south of Raunheim, I slipped purposely off the highway, following backroads, through small German towns, rolling hills and vineyards, and great windmill farms. It was a bright and warm September day, the trees hadn’t turned yet and were still full and green. Scattered, towering thunderheads moved north from France. The warm breeze through the window of my little metallic-blue Opel hatchback was scented with rain. I passed quickly through little Luxembourg into Belgium’s sweeping hills, storybook villages and banks of towering pines.003

Recalling this I am coveting a stein of St. Bernardus Abt 12, an artfully blended Belgian Ale. In Bastogne I sat at a small sidewalk cafe with a beer, sitting alone and pondering the journey the town had made in nearly seven decades since the war. I recalled growing up on images of Vietnam as a child, and how many years later it was a North Vietnamese official with the United Nations that helped me get into besieged Sarajevo. It was a lesson that hearts, are on journeys as well.

It is said that the Brewery at St. Bernardus was founded in 1946, just after the end of the war. The water used to brew the very bottle off Ale I’m drinking now fell upon Flanders during the life of Jeanne D’Arc. So this smooth Ale, rich in malts, with a craftfully balance sweetness, and not a hint of bitterness likewise made a journey.
I often recall that journey to Bastogne. I can’t recall precisely the beer I had at that street-side cafe. Lifting the glass of St. Bernardus to the light, as it filters softly through that wildflower honey color, and wisps of sediment, and recall that when the check came and that beer cost 7 Euros, or almost 11 US Dollars, that it too was part of the journey. I wouldn’t have paid a penny less.

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck with Brian Murray and the whole Our Town gang every Sunday 8-9am on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCTP during the Revolution and Beer segment, and find out more about all of the great craft Beers we feature by googling Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. Like us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer, or subscribe for free to 900poundgorilla.wordpress.com.

Revolution and Beer…of the week: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

All the rage! the stock clerk at the liquor store said stout beers are all the rage. Hearing that, I nearly put my selection back on the shelf. i am not about the rage, but about the beer. Not that I’m a beer snob. I keep a couple of PBRs, a 6-pack of Schlitz or Old Milwaukee-as a nod to my dad-in the fridge. Sometimes cold and casual,  at least in a beer, is the way to go. doesn’t work so much for dates. Supply your own punchline here.

So, it was with some momentary reticence that I nearly put the beer neatly back on the shelf in front of him. For just an instant I pondered that act, perhaps swaggering arrogantly just a bit and remarking that I was way to cool to follow “the rage,” and that I would go home in stead to enjoy an ice-cold Mickey’s?

Oh, come on beer snobs. You’ve had a Mickey’s. Maybe late at night, when there are no witnesses. Just you and that squat, barrel-shaped green bottle with the wide mouth. Perhaps after sampling and pondering the nuances and layering, deciphering the layers of a couple imports hand crafted by Franciscans in the Alps, at some secluded 15th Century monastery/brew pub accessible only by mountain goat and Rick Steeves. After straining at descriptive adjectives like amber, sunset, or midnight to describe colors, and hoppy, roasted malts, citrusy and spices for flavor,  which is great, sometimes it is nice to trailer-trash things a bit with a simple brew that makes you feel a bit foolish for attempting at those descriptors. think of it like your Ferrari just ran out of gas and a guy in a rusted Ford pick up just rescued you from the side of the road.

Instead I pursed my lips thoughtfully and nodded politely before making my way to the check out. I set down the pint of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout in front of the cashier. She was a young and pretty, with shoulder length dark hair and  a sincere smile. I hadn’t seen her there before, and guessed that she was new. Turning the bottle to the silver and royal purple label she commented pleasantly, “Is this good? I love chocolate!”

Now there’s the right attitude, I thought. Go for what you like. Beer is supposed to be about community, and exploration in the amazing number of choices is a good thing, but we’re not pursuing the holy grail here, folks. The exploration is about finding something you enjoy, that rounds out an evening, becomes a catalyst for conversation or debate or  compliments a good meal…or is ice-cold and relaxing after a hot afternoon’s yard work.youngs-double-chocolate-stout

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout won the Gold Medal at the Brewing industry International Awards in 2000, and the Silver Medal in 2002. I knew that researching the beer before picking it up to try for the first time. Not that it mattered. I failed to taste any gold or silver in the beer at all! Instead, what I did find was a really nicely balanced beer. It had the essence of chocolate without being overly sweet, and just the right balance of bitterness. Midnight black(yeah, I said midnight…), it was full and rich without being too watery or too syrupy. I finished the bottle without feeling overstuffed.Young’s poured to a nice half-inch umber head. Sweeping in the aroma as the head melted slowly back into the body, I caught a hint of vanilla and caramel.

Comfortably priced, and coming in at a gentle 5.2% ABV, it was the right choice for  a frigid midwinter’s night. Full bodied dark beers with character, flavor and layers seem fitting for this time of year. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout is a great choice for cooking as well, and I can see, though I haven’t done it yet, working in a good chili or a hearty stew. I tried it with a smokey bit of sausage and cheese and found a really nice balance at that…

Listen to 900poundgorilla every Sunday morning 8-9 on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT am820 and streaming live worldwide for the Revolution and Beer show only on Our Town.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook  at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., www.glunzbeers.com. And check out their fine beer glasswear selections  at the “Beerables” link  at the bottom of their page.  

The antidote to Snowmageddon: Hinterland’s Winter Land Beer.

SONY DSCThey are naming winter storms now. Really? I mean, we named them when I was a kid, but it usually started with a string of words not fit to print here. Apart from that it was the “snow of ‘67” or the “blizzard of ’78,” and the “global-warming balmy winter of 2012?” So imagine my surprise to learn the first big snow storm of the year is called “Draco,” like some B-movie villain.

Already the wind is coming up, carrying with it a hint of cold and snow. It feels timely just a week away from Christmas. For a while I was beginning to fear we’d go another holiday season without the white stuff. Given all that has happened lately, the snow offers a settling respite. It feels right for a good strong winter brew. And though I am still exploring some of the holiday seasonal, it just seemed time for something  to hunker down with and sit out the storm.

Winter Land, the spiced Ale from Hinterland brewers and founders, Bill and Michelle Tressler poured black from the sturdy pint bottle. Lifting the glass to my nose I breathed in the warming bitterness of hops. Swirling it heavily in the glass I was reminded of a good stout. Even that modest and frothy brown head gave that impression.

I reckon folks in Green bay, where Winter Land is brewed, know a thing or two about winters and what it takes to get through one. Since I’m up that way a couple of times a year, I can attest they know a bit about beer. Next to dodging amorous deer on highways, beer might be in the top five Wisconsin sports. I imagine that naming a beer Winter Land, and brewing special for the season carries a certain risk if it ain’t done right, and Hinterland  did it right.

I let the first taste sit on the tongue a moment. The coffee and dark chocolate bitterness of the hops quietly rounded and softened as the roasted malts came through. At the back of the throat the hint of juniper berries built to a crescendo to finish that first taste nicely

It’s all about the taste, and not over-thinking things. I try not to over-think my beer. It’s nice to play with it a bit, and to explore the effort a good craft brewer puts into their beer. There are layers and subtleties and artistry a good brewer brings to their final product. I think it only fair the serious beer enthusiast pay a bit of homage to that effort.

It will be snowing in a couple of hours. They’re talking about blizzard conditions, high winds, plunging temperatures  and a half a foot of snow by tomorrow night. Seeing as I don’t have to be anywhere in particular, I’ll crack open another Winter Land and enjoy winter storm “Draco.” I’m not going to over think any of this. I wish I could say the same for the Weather Channel: Next storm, Winter storm-Terminator.    

Tune in every Sunday 9-0am only on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT for the Revolution and Beer segment as Brian Murrayand I sample the beer of the week with the Our Town gang, and run down the grassroots calendar for the week. If you’re tired of talk, talk, talk radio, this is do something radio. Have a beer. Get involved.

With thanks to the good people at Louis Glunz Beer Inc, a family owned business for 125 years in Chicago. Happy Holidays! Visit them @ http://www.glunzbeers.com/Site/SeasonalBeers.aspx?hd=1

And for great gift ideas for the beer enthusiast in your life, check out Beerables, http://www.beerables.net/glunz logo

 For more on HinterLand’s Winter Land seasonal, and their other great beers visit: http://www.hinterlandbeer.com/Winterland.html

He’brew’s Jewbelation Sweet 16…you haven’t had beer if…

Any serious beer drinker remembers that very first taste. Mine was in a small dark bar across from the Electromotive plant, and just down the road from the Reynold’s Aluminum factory in McCook Illinois where my dad worked a good honest Union job. I recall looking over at my dad who smiled proudly as I lifted a glass of Schlitz beer to my lips. The year was 1968. I was 5.

J16Funny that Schmaltz Brewing’s Jewbelation Sweet 16 evoked that memory. Schlitz and this beer are world’s apart. This beer is thick as honey, and dark as a midwinter’s night. As I poured it into a full round chalice, the beer developed a thick foamy chocolate head. I played a bit with it, the head clinging to the glass, before being dragged reluctantly into that midnight umber body. But it was the first taste that swept me back to that working man’s tavern in ’68, respectable country music playing from a small radio behind the bar-not that hippie acid rock the anti-war protesters were all listening to. Now, as an activist many years later, that all seems to have come full circle.

Jewbelation Sweet 16. 16 malts. 16 hops. 16 % alcohol by volume. An impressive pinnacle from a guy who started out selling  a good craft beer from his car. This is a thinking man’s beer. The layers and complexities, rich spices, dark and fragrant chocolates and  a beautiful blend of hops amd malts evokes conversation and deep ponderances. He’brew Jewbelation Sweet 16 proves a centerpiece for hashing out the deepest thoughts. I kept lifting it again and again, marveling how the thick-as-honey brew seemed to capture the light and hold it fully.

A lot of years have passed since I sat at that bar as a boy with my father. Some years back he ran the gauntlet of some health problems. He beat ’em, but it was a fight.  Not that it slowed him down much, and he turned 77 just the other day. My dad had been a beer drinker his whole life. Not to excess, but as a respite from the backbreaking work he did daily at the factory and as a volunteer fireman for 20 some years. It was perfect that he’d end the day with a can or two of cold suds. But one day a few years back he called and complained how he kept falling down and was getting all these nasty bruises.

“You gave up drinking beer, didn’t you, pop?”

“Well, yeah,” he replied a bit sheepishly, deferring to what the doctors were telling him to do.  

“Gotta start drinking again, pop to get your balance back.” 

It wasn’t about a week later that he called and said that he was having a beer. He’d started with a bit of beer daily earlier that week. 

“Damned if I ain’t falling down any more.”

“Glad to hear you’re drinking again,” I said.

This beer is filled with  character, and is as full-bodied as they come. Almost as much character as a Sid Yiddish video-google him. Any fuller and you’d need a knife and fork for this beer, but that’s a good thing. This truly is a beer to be pondered and discussed, and at 16% ABV you’ll find that perfect midwinter’s warmth to see you through those cold dark nights.  I’m raising the glass yet again, this time to my dad. Pop, this one’s for you.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook  at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., www.glunzbeers.com

For more info on He’brew Jewbelation Sweet 16 visit http://www.shmaltzbrewing.com/HEBREW/j16.html

On Reward, Justice and the Good Fight :Anchor’s Christmas Ale

Brian needs sleep. I’m running on fumes as well. Saving the world comes at a price. Today the words Revolution and Beer feel symbiotic. brian was much more in this fight than I was, fighting to keep a friend from being railroaded by a demonstrably corrupt system from a life sentence for revealing to the world what the secret-keepers in the government would keep from scrutiny. A spirited beer, Anchor Brewing’s 2012 Christmas Ale seemed a fitting respite from the passion of the week.  

We poured them into wine glasses and chalices from huge magnums so awesome that they would draw boisterous attention at any party. These beers needed to breath. We needed and longed to absorb every scent and enjoy each to the fullest. Brian and i were hardly disappointed.

Lifting the glass to the light I pondered the umber hue, brightening at the edges to a warm Amber. The room filled  with the scent of Ginger and Pine, cut with a slight sweetness. Brian pondered it as well, smiling philosophically as he studied the seasonal brew, Anchor’s 38th annual. My thoughts were with a local independently owned coffee shop that was being bullied by Starbucks. I’d gotten in the fight beside the owner and had invested much of the week to the cause. Brian nodded. 

“My brain actually gravitates towards this communal, sustainable ag stuff,” he says. he’s unstoppable, changing gears from the suite of causes he crafts with his family into culture.

We were doing something called vertical taste-testing, comparing Anchor’s 2010 and 2012 side by side. they were different indeed. The 2010 had smoothed and mellowed with age. The hops had softened leaving  a sort of almond, dark chocolate bitterness. I tested first one and then the other, as if I might compare or contrast them, playing one against the other. but they were so very different that the conversation naturally gravitated to food, and what sort of dishes might work best with either.  

We both thought hearty dishes like a Stroganoff or a good beef or lamb stew would  be nice with the 2012. I kept finding room for cumin and cardamom, the spices common to Mexican cuisine. Food eclipsed the all-too clinical comparisons about beer. That’s as it should be. Beer is about conversation; finding it and fueling it, which maybe is why it is abundantly appropriate for Revolution, and maybe necessary.

As for Anchor’s Christmas Ale, I am intrigued enough. This vertical tasting is fun. Folks are buying up cases of this year’s Ale to compare with next year’s. given the dramatic difference between the two we tasted today, I am already looking forward to Christmas 2013.

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook  at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., www.glunzbeers.com

For more info on Anchor’s Christmas Ale visit http://www.anchorbrewing.com/beer/christmas_ale

A Season of Moments: Revolution Brewing’s Fistmas Ale

The first sip took me back some years ago to the badlands of South Dakota. The sun had set, the day remaining in waning deep reddish hues. The recollection of that darkly painted sky perfectly matched the color of Revolution Brewing’s holiday Fistmas Ale, a seasonal from a local Chicago brewery with a quality portfolio of craft brews. A lifetime happened since that day. From that first cool rush of beer at the back of my throat, I was back there once again.

I’d gone to the Badlands with buddies, Randy and John. One of us overcoming a divorce, another, an Irish kid out to explore the country. I, as a budding young novelist, yet to set my first words to paper, was looking for stories and inspiration. I was chasing a bit of Kerouac’s impetuousness, something of Hemingway’s devil-may-care adventurism, and a touch of Twain’s whimsical observance of America; a perfect blend, a simple balance, like an artfully crafted brew.  

From an overlook the three of us, languishing in our own thoughts were silent, looking out across the arid bluffs quickly swallowed in a sea of ever-deepening shadows. A chill descended from the star-filled sky, contrasting with the heat of the desert floor. I recalled something in that chill evening air, with the first taste of Fistmas Ale. The warmth of slightly bitter hops was quickly swept aside to the soothing, almost reverent coolness of ginger and whispers of citrus.

It is easy to over-think beer, in my opinion. Inherent is a casualness, a looseness and freedom not primary to fine wines, a grand Scotch or an aged Cognac. Instead, a great beer has always reminded me of moments, and simple moments indeed. The layers and depth of Revolution Brewing’s Fistmas might be ideal for such moments. Like those moments, they are not ours alone, and must be shared to be properly enjoyed.

And so we arrive  at the season of moments. We arrive amid the season of holidays defined by family and friends; new friends and friends long departed. I’m raising a glass of this fine beer in toast to those close by, but a part of me remains in that desert with Randy and John, watching the whispering end to the day…

Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook  at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., www.glunzbeers.com

For more on Revolution Brewing, visit their website @ http://www.revbrew.com

Revolution and Beer’s own:Smokey Brunch Frittata(Makes 18 single servings)


One small onion, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red bell pepper, smoked gouda, thin-sliced Russian Balik Davnitsky, or prosciutto, Thyme, half and half, eggs, jalapeño pepper,  cilantro, vinegar, mayonnaise, olive oil, butter


Lightly butter  a medium muffin pan.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Finely chop one small onion

In a small skillet heat a tablespoon-ish of butter, and melt over a medium heat. Add onion a dash of salt and a bit of pepper. Stir occasionally until onion is translucent, with a hint of sweetness. Remove from heat and pour into small dish. Set aside and allow to cool.

Finely chop ½ red bell pepper

Finely chop ¼ pound smoked Gouda

Chop 1/2 tablespoon fresh Thyme.

Chop Balik Davnitsky.

Add all four in a small bowl and mix lightly for flavors to marry.

In a large bowl crack 12 medium to large eggs, ¼ cup of half and half, salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until smooth and fully blended. All onion, bell pepper/gouda/Thyme and Davnitsky  mix to eggs and stir for even distribution. Using a small soup ladle, fill the muffin pans to ¾ full. Place in center of oven rack to bake 15-18 minutes, until the top is golden brown and firm. Remove from oven and let stand 3 minutes


In a food processor, mix  fresh cilantro, fresh jalapeño(Outside only, discard rind and seeds), 2 table spoons olive oil, 2 table spoons mayonnaise, tablespoon white vinegar, teaspoon lemon juice, mix until liquid.


Place a bit of drizzle at center of the plate. Set 2 Frittatas side by side on top and drizzle a bit more around. Garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro. Enjoy!  

 Catch more recipes each week with our featured craft brew every Sunday on WCPT 8am in Chicago, for the Revolution and Beer spot on the Our Town program. This week’s feature, courtesy of Louis Glunz Beer, Inc.: Revolution Brewing’s Eugene Porter, a crisp, bold malty brew, perfect for cold days and hearty foods.   

The Our Town crew and Revolution and Beer in the studio

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